NSA joins with industry to call for improved accuracy in measurements of global warming potential

4th March 2020

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is joining with agricultural organisations from the UK and New Zealand to call on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to evaluate the more accurate global warming potential (GWP) metric of GWP*/GWP-we to measure the contribution of short-lived greenhouse gases to global warming.

Given the scale of the climate change crisis facing the planet, it is vitally important that the best scientific information and tools available are being used to inform and build trust in the decisions that global and domestic policy makers are taking and the current measurements in use may not give an accurate reflection of agriculture’s true impact on global warming.

Climate change is one the world’s most urgent challenges with farmers among the first to see its impact on food production as they deal with the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather, such as droughts and floods. Therefore the agricultural sector is keen to ensure that the industry is fairly viewed and the positive impact it can have on climate change is highlighted.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: “For years we have been affected by negative press based on incomplete carbon foot printing science and guidance. It is this science that has suggested that the more extensive the farming approach the worse its climate impact is. But this is now outdated, and we have a far more holistic understanding of life cycles and also of the trade offs between greenhouse gases, the land-based environment, resource use, and productivity.”

The organisations involved on calling to the IPCC are reminding policy makers that farming can be part of an essential solution to climate change improving farming’s productive efficiency to reduce our GHG emissions, storing carbon in farmland soils and vegetation, boosting renewable energy and the bio-economy and creating GHG removal through photosynthesis and carbon capture.

While GWP100 is the accepted metric for describing the warming impact of greenhouse gases, it is acknowledged to have shortcomings when it comes to the temperature response of short-lived emissions such as methane. GWP-we provides a more accurate measure of the behaviour of methane in the atmosphere and its net contribution to global warming.

Using metrics that inaccurately capture the contribution to warming of short-lived gases could lead to poor policy decisions. While all parts of our society must show leadership and play their part in addressing climate change, policy advice needs to reflect solutions that distinguish between the dynamics of biogenic methane and gases that persist in the atmosphere for long periods.

Whatever the IPCC’s decision on GHG metrics, farmers are committed to broad based action on climate change. We cannot afford to wait for more accurate measures to be developed: urgent action is needed now to improve productivity, conserve the carbon already in our pastures and grasslands, and store more carbon for the good of society.

NSA issues this press release alongside the following organisations: